learning to drive in iwakuniMelissa Fuerst & Aaron Pylinski | Community Writers
"The previous Director of MCCS made the executive decision that MCCS would run the program directly to offer more flexibility."
John Ayers, Director of Services MCCS Iwakuni
As a retiree returning to Iwakuni, Ted Roberts, the new instructor for the Driver’s Education Course, is looking to make a difference here with the ADTSEA accredited program.
In 2016, MCCS contracted a driving school that taught many students, servicemembers, and civilians how to drive but the program would be short lived.
Shortly after, the operation was canceled with the guidance to create an MCCS-run program that falls under Retail & Services Division. The new program run by Mr. Roberts now falls under the Services Branch by the Auto Skills Center.
"For those who have never driven, this course painstakingly takes you through how to be a safe driver. Ultimately what we want [here in Japan] are safe drivers."
Ted Roberts, Driving Instructor
An MCCS-run driving school is ideal for several reasons. One benefit this move makes for MCCS and the community is having a traditional driving school that is run and operated in-house – making it readily available to the many active duty, spouses, and dependants aboard the Air Station.
What caused the lapse in driving education? The main difficulty has been hiring. Before we hired Mr. Roberts, we selected two different driving instructors at two separate times. Both candidates accepted the offer but declined at the last minute, meaning we had to restart the hiring process three separate times.
Now that we have a driving instructor, courses will be available in early 2018. Depending on availability and status, the length of this new course may be one to six weeks. For someone who can commit to an eight hour per day course, may finish the class in a week. However, a class that meets every other day may take longer.
We are looking into providing a variety of class schedules to suit the needs of as many community members as possible. We are working with the High School Principal to develop the best schedule for High School students.
Those who receive priority for the course will be active-duty servicemembers, followed by dependent spouses, and then students. Though the cost of this course is still being determined, the likely range is $300-495.
In addition to Mr. Roberts, we are looking into the feasibility of hiring part-time or flex instructors to help with the workload. However, at the end of the day, even though this service is for the benefit of the community, there is still a cost factor involved which affects our ability to hire extra staff.
For anyone looking to get on the waiting list for the class, Mr. Roberts can be reached via DSN at 253-5325 or email [email protected]
"What I think is important is that many staff have kids here in school. They should be able to get a drivers license here and meet the requirements of their state by attending this program."
Ted Roberts, Driving Instructor
How does this course differ from the states?
The only difference between the driving course here and in the states is that Japanese rules are studied instead of American.
A difference in stateside driver’s education policy exists on overseas U.S. bases. While many states in the U.S. may not require a driver’s education class over a certain age, Marine Corps Air Station Order 5560.8B states that all active duty personnel under the age of 26 who have never taken an accredited driver’s education course must take one to get a license.
If you receive your license here in Iwakuni, your home state's law determines the legality and ease of transferring your new license to the States.
Motorcycles, Mopeds and Scooters
Japanese driving stickers
You may have recognized these symbols around town! As opposed the large “Student Driver” sign atop cars in the United States, the Japanese lean to a more subtle approach in labeling drivers on the road. Not all stickers in Japan annotate beginning drivers, though; experience, and disabilities come into play as well.
The Shoshinsha or Wakaba which represents a green leaf lets other drivers know that the person behind the wheel is a beginning driver.
For the more experienced drivers or the elderly aged 70 and older the Koreisha mark is displayed on their automobile. Before 2011, the Koreisha mark was a yellow and orange teardrop which was aptly named the Momiji mark. It is now a multi-colored four-leaf which represents the four colors of all seasons.
There are also other nature-inspired stickers representing the disabled and the deaf. The white four-leaf clover on a blue background indicates disabilities and yellow butterfly on a green background represents deaf drivers.